Palo Alto Weekly

News - March 12, 2010

News Digest

Three local schools land on state's 'worst' list

Three local schools — including a charter school run by Stanford University — have landed on the California Department of Education's "preliminary" list of the state's worst-performing schools.

One of the schools, Edison-Ronald McNair Intermediate School, had its charter revoked for poor performance in 2008 by East Palo Alto's Ravenswood City School District.

The Stanford-run East Palo Alto Academy Elementary School was reorganized with a new principal last fall and recently petitioned Ravenswood trustees to allow it to continue operating.

The third school on the list, the K-8 Costano, has a new principal and has been cited by Ravenswood officials and others as a campus in the midst of a turnaround.

The rankings, representing the bottom 5 percent of schools in the state, were based on state achievement tests and graduation rates, the Department of Education said.

Given the fact that one of the schools had its charter revoked two years ago, it was unclear whether there was a time lag in the state data. Department of Education spokeswoman Pam Slater could not immediately be reached for comment.

Once the list is final, each school will be required to engage in one of four school intervention models and be eligible to apply for federal funds to implement the changes.

Palo Alto drops 'prevailing-wage' study

Palo Alto has scrapped its plan to study the impacts of union-level wages on capital projects after the City Council concluded Monday that such a study could be inconclusive and that its results may end up costing the city money.

After an extensive debate, the council voted 5-4 to reject the recommendation from its Policy and Services Committee. The committee and staff from the Public Works Department had recommended in December that the city conduct a study to evaluate the costs and benefits of paying workers employed by contractors the prevailing union wage for local capital projects.

While most cities are required by state law to have prevailing-wage laws, Palo Alto is exempt because of its status as a charter city. But some city leaders, most notably former Councilmember John Barton, argued that Palo Alto has a moral obligation to ensure that workers involved with major capital projects receive union-level wages, which incorporate the costs of training workers and providing them with health benefits.

City staff has evaluated more than a dozen studies on prevailing wage, many of which featured conflicting results on the cost impacts. A council majority, some alluding to the city's current budget woes, argued Monday that the city cannot afford to consider a policy change that could lead to wage increases.

Informational meeting Monday on Google plan

An informational meeting has been set for 6 p.m. Monday on how residents and businesses can support Palo Alto's application to Google to be a test community for a Google Open Fiber plan, racing against a March 26 deadline.

Google has invited communities across the nation to apply for a "fiber to the premises" installation that could link homes and businesses throughout the community with high-speed broadband fiber — an idea that has been discussed for about 15 years in Palo Alto.

The meeting will be in the City Hall lobby, 250 Hamilton Ave., preceding the 7 p.m. City Council meeting.

"Experts from the city and community will provide an overview and answer questions about the Google conditional offer to test a 1 gigabit fiber-to-the-home network in one or more selected American cities," Bob Harrington, adviser to the mayor on fiber and the Internet, said of the meeting.

"The City of Palo Alto wants to be one of the cities selected."

Harrington said "making the cut requires two things: (1) a compelling response by the City of Palo Alto to Google, and (2) a compelling response from the community to Google.

"In this case, our community is defined broadly. It includes everyone who works and/or lives here, those who electronically come to Palo Alto from throughout the globe, and all the organizations that employ or educate or serve them," Harrington said.

More information is available from three websites: www.CityofPaloAlto.org; www.Facebook.com as a fan page, "Palo Alto for Google Fiber"; and www.iPaloAlto.com.

Google has said it wants to test how a fully connected community could find innovative ways in which to communicate, and the impact that might have on business, social and educational interactions.

— Palo Alto Weekly staff

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